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Notes from America

Notes from America with Kai Wright is a show about the unfinished business of our history, and its grip on our future.

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Monterey Park: The Making of America’s First Suburban Chinatown

A mass shooting in Monterey Park, California – on the eve of Lunar New Year – sent shockwaves through the predominantly Asian American ethnoburb and the Asian American community nationwide. The toll of mass shootings this year in the U.S. is already in the dozens in just the first month of 2023. In Monterey Park, California, a majority Asian American community shaken by loss of lives at the hands of an armed gunman, emotions are high given the circumstances. The victims were at a celebration for Lunar New Year in a city known as America’s first suburban Chinatown. To learn more about Monterey Park and its history, host Kai Wright speaks with James Zarsadiaz, a professor of history at the University of San Francisco and the author of “Resisting Change in Suburbia: Asian Immigrants and Frontier Nostalgia and LA”. They discuss the town’s significance for the greater Asian American community and how people are processing this tragedy amid persisting fears of anti-Asian hate. Companion listening for this episode: The Dangerous Cycle of Fear (4/11/2022) Asian American New Yorkers explain how Covid-era bigotry and violence changed their lives, and what’s at stake for everybody when we fear each other.  “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

19mins

26 Jan 2023

Rank #1

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Living With And Learning From Estrangement

Estrangement isn’t linear. For those who have severed ties or been cut off, it can be necessary, empowering, devastating and confounding—all at once.  A recent series from WNYC’s Death, Sex & Money podcast explores the complexities of estrangement, which they define as an experience of feeling cut off from a relationship or a community that once felt like home. Death, Sex & Money host Anna Sale teams up with Kai Wright to expand on the topic in a listener-driven episode. Together with Rebecca Martinez Fitzgerald, a therapist based in Durham, North Carolina, they respond to callers wrestling with relationships and differences in values. Hear more about this topic on Death, Sex & Money. Companion listening for this episode: Church, State and the Soul of Our Nation (10/10/2022) Christian nationalism – the push to have laws, policies and social norms reflect Christian values –  is a growing movement in the U.S. As its rise continues to influence contemporary politics, how should we consider and prepare for its impact on our government? “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

47mins

23 Jan 2023

Rank #2

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The Not-So-Sunny Side of Louis Armstrong’s Legacy

What made Louis Armstrong’s music so groundbreaking? And after he broke that ground, why were later generations of Black people reluctant to embrace him?  From his renditions of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” to “What A Wonderful World,” trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong is cemented in history as a jazz icon. But for many Black people – especially those in the mid-twentieth century – his presentation was degrading and received as minstrelsy for white audiences. Filmmaker Sacha Jenkins traces Amstrong’s complicated history as a Black artist in his most recent project and documentary, “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues.” He joins host Kai Wright to discuss Armstrong’s relationship with music and the fans that struggled to embrace him. Companion listening for this episode: What Does Black Ambition Sound Like? (12/27/2021) James Reese Europe was already famous when he enlisted to fight in World War I. But the band he took to the frontlines – as part of the famous 369th Infantry Regiment – thrust him and Black American music onto the global stage. Jazz pianist Jason Moran sits down at the piano to show Kai how Europe’s band changed music, and how jazz carries the resilient sound of Black history and ambition in America.  “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

19mins

19 Jan 2023

Rank #3

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The Legacy of MLK Jr. Is To Be Young, Gifted and Black

How does Martin Luther King Jr.’s generation of young, gifted, and Black people inspire today’s changemakers and their ideas for how to achieve racial justice? The Apollo has a decades-long tradition of serving as a convener for local community residents as well as people from across New York City and the world. That tradition continues as The Apollo partners with WNYC for the annual celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his enduring legacy on the culture. The 17th annual Apollo Uptown Hall MLK celebration focuses on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's as the template for modern social and civil justice movements. Notes from America opened the celebration with a live, in-person conversation acknowledging the young leaders of today impacting society through activism, engagement and a commitment to justice. Host Kai Wright is joined by historian and National Book Award winner Imani Perry and Chelsea Miller, activist and the co-founder of Freedom March NYC. They discuss King’s legacy in the context of the Nina Simone song, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” with special performances from The Collective, brought to you by Dream Launchers, led by director Jonathan Ball. This episode was recorded live at the World Famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York on January 15, 2023 and broadcast nationwide on January 16, 2023. Listen to more episodes here.  Companion listening for this episode: YA Literature Chose Jason Reynolds (12/26/2022) For author Jason Reynolds, the key to writing compelling young adult literature is reconnecting with the formative childhood experiences that made him “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

58mins

16 Jan 2023

Rank #4

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New Congress, New Consequences

From near-fisticuffs on the House floor to Kevin McCarthy’s concessions to win the gavel, the chaotic start for the 118th Congress has finally settled – with consequences for us all.  In his bid for speakership, newly elected House speaker Kevin McCarthy made a host of promises to some of the Republican Party’s most extremist members – including Qanon conspiracists and election deniers. The future of the new Congress and what led to its formation serve as a lesson for where we stand in national politics. Theodore Johnson, senior advisor for the public policy think tank New America and writer for The Bulwark, joins host Kai Wright to unpack it all in this special episode for podcast listeners.  Companion listening for this episode: The Conservative ‘Swing’ Vote: Explained (11/7/2022) Trump-to-Biden voters may decide the upcoming midterms. So, who are they? And what do they want from candidates now?  “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

33mins

12 Jan 2023

Rank #5

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The Future of Work As We Know It

The Great Resignation. Quiet quitting. These concepts allegedly defined the way we worked last year. Will anything change in 2023? Journalist Anne Helen Petersen, co-author of Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home and host of the Crooked Media podcast Work Appropriate,  has made a name for herself examining Americans’ relationships to work. She joins host Kai Wright to discuss these relationships and how they are shaping our culture, economy and politics. They also take questions from callers about balancing work and life. Companion listening for this episode: Idina Menzel Talks Broadway, Balance and Her Dream Gig (12/12/2022) From Broadway to Frozen, Idina Menzel has captivated young and old audiences alike. A new documentary about her journey as a performer reveals how she worked to land her dream gig. “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

31mins

9 Jan 2023

Rank #6

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Faith Ringgold Creates Space for Black Americans

Faith Ringgold’s art is an intimate dialogue and debate between generations of Black women, stretching from the formerly enslaved to today. Producer Rahima Nasa takes host Kai Wright to an exhibit displaying artist Faith Ringgold’s work. We learn about Ringgold’s story and the political beliefs that shaped her art, plus we hear about the impact of Ringgold’s work from her daughter, art historian and feminist scholar Michele Wallace.  This episode was was originally published as ‘Why We Can't (and Shouldn't) Move On From Jan. 6’ on June 13, 2022. Listen to more episodes here.  Companion listening for this episode: The Art of Remembrance (9/14/2022) The story of one local NYC artist who uses digital technology to honor our city’s past. “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

18mins

5 Jan 2023

Rank #7

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How Afrofuturism Redefines Our Past

Afrofuturism is an old idea that’s reaching new people. Hollywood production designer Hannah Beachler walks us through some fantastical, imagined paths to Black liberation. There is a cosmic vision of Black freedom seen across universes from Seneca Village to Wakanda, exemplified across artistry from Sun Ra to Lil Nas X. Among the culture makers propelling the Afrofuturism movement is Hannah Beachler, an Academy Award-winning production designer and lead curator of the exhibit Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Beachler – who’s worked on box office films like “Black Panther,” “Moonlight” and  Creed,” as well as Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visuals – joins host Kai Wright to share how Afrofuturism calls on our history to reimagine the next steps in our journey.  This episode was was originally published as ‘Black People Are From Outer Space’ on February 14, 2022. Listen to more episodes here.  Companion listening for this episode: Billy Porter on Bringing Blackness, Queerness and Fullness to Art (12/19/2022) What does a next level victory look like for an Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner? For actor Billy Porter - it’s an authentic sense of self. “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

32mins

2 Jan 2023

Rank #8

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Rediscovering Myself Through Rebuilding A Relationship With My Dad

Folashade Olatunde, a WNYC Radio Rookie, shares a series of open and honest audio diaries, inviting listeners on her journey to rebuild a relationship with her dad.Her dad went to prison when she was two years old. She used to go visit him all the time with her mom. Until her parents got divorced. Now, it’s been more than a decade since she saw her father. In this extended version of an installment of Radio Rookies, Olatunde shares a series of open and honest audio diaries and invites listeners on her journey to rebuild her relationship with her dad. This episode was was originally published as ‘Half of My Parents, All of Me’ on August 31, 2022. Listen to more episodes here.  Companion listening for this episode: The Prison of Manhood Can’t Hold Shaka Senghor (8/29/2022) He went to prison at age 19. When released, he had to learn how to be a father to two Black sons with very different life experiences. His letters to them have lessons for us all. “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

18mins

29 Dec 2022

Rank #9

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YA Literature Chose Jason Reynolds

For author Jason Reynolds, the key to writing compelling young adult literature is reconnecting with the formative childhood experiences that made him. He has become a rockstar among kids and young adults for books like As Brave As You and Ghost that tell honest stories about Black childhood. The author joins host Kai Wright to discuss his storytelling philosophy, successes, fears and relationship with his mother. Hear more from Jason Reynolds in Radiotopia Presents: My Mother Made Me.  This episode was was originally published as ‘Jason Reynolds Needs to Be Useful’ on July 18, 2022. Listen to more episodes here.  Companion listening for this episode: Lynn Nottage: Unexpected Optimist (1/3/2022) Playwright Lynn Nottage breaks down her remarkable career and shares how, as an optimist at heart, she finds the light and resilience in unexpected stories. “Notes from America” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org or on WNYC’s YouTube channel. We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @noteswithkai or email us at notes@wnyc.org.

32mins

26 Dec 2022

Rank #10